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Japanese architect Riken Yamamoto, 2024 Pritzker Prize

MADRID, 5 Mar.

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Japanese architect Riken Yamamoto, 2024 Pritzker Prize


Japanese architect Riken Yamamoto has been awarded the 2024 Pritzker Prize, as announced by the institution, which defines Yamamoto as a "social defender" who establishes a kinship between the public and private spheres, inspiring harmonious societies despite the diversity of identities, economies, policies, infrastructures and housing systems.

"For raising awareness in the community about what is the responsibility of social demand, for questioning the discipline of architecture to calibrate each individual architectural response and, above all, for reminding us that in architecture, as in democracy, spaces must be created by will. Riken Yamamoto is named winner of the 2024 Pritzker Prize," the jury's ruling states.

For the jury, in his long, coherent and rigorous career, Riken Yamamoto has managed to produce architecture as the background and foreground of everyday life, blurring the limits between its public and private dimensions and multiplying the opportunities for people to meet spontaneously, through precise and rational design strategies.

In this sense, he points out that his architecture clearly expresses his beliefs through the modular structure and simplicity of its form. "However, it does not dictate activities, but rather allows people to shape their own lives within their buildings with elegance, normality, poetry and joy," he adds.

The entire space of the Saitama Prefectural University building (1999), cited by the jury as an example, is conceived as a community. He also points out that the two departments for students and researchers to work together at the University of the Future, Hakodate (2000), or the transparent glass facade with louvers to expose the inner workings of the department at the Hiroshima Fire Station (2000) exemplify its belief in the concept of transparency as a reflection of the functionality and accessibility of the space for both users and viewers.

"Yamamoto has expanded the profession's toolbox both into the past and into the future to be able to provide each time, in very different ways and at very different scales, the most relevant response to the challenges of both the built environment and collective life. ", Add.

According to the organization, the Yokohama architect is deeply rooted in the defense of community life and claims that the value of privacy has become an urban sensibility, when in reality the members of a community should support each other.

In this sense, he adds that Yamamoto defines community as a "sense of sharing a space", deconstructing traditional notions of freedom and privacy while rejecting the reduction of housing to a commodity without relationship with neighbors.

"For me, recognizing space is recognizing an entire community," Yamamoto says. "The current architectural approach emphasizes privacy, denying the need for social relationships. However, we can still honor the freedom of each individual as we live together in an architectural space like a republic, promoting harmony between cultures and phases of life".

Japanese architect Riken Yamamoto (b. 1945) was born in Beijing, People's Republic of China and moved to Yokohama, Japan, shortly after the end of World War II. At age 17 he visited the Kôfuku-ji temple in Nara, Japan, originally built in 730 and finally rebuilt in 1426, and was captivated by the five-story Pagoda that symbolizes the five Buddhist elements: earth, water, fire, air. and space.

He graduated from Nihon University, Department of Architecture, Faculty of Science and Technology in 1968 and received a Master of Architecture from Tokyo University of the Arts, Faculty of Architecture in 1971. He founded his studio, Riken Yamamoto

During the early years of his career, the architect spontaneously traveled across countries and continents by car with his mentor, Hiroshi Hara, spending months at a time in pursuit of understanding communities, cultures and civilizations and concluding that the idea of ​​a "threshold" between public and private spaces was universal.

His first project, Yamakawa Villa (Nagano, Japan 1977), is exposed on all sides and situated in the forest, designed to feel like an outdoor terrace. The experience significantly influenced his future work as he expanded into social housing with Hotakubo Housing (Kumamoto, Japan 1991), bridging cultures and generations through relational living.

He established an urban planning approach that demonstrated that evolution is a vital property in the development of Ryokuen-toshi, Inter-Junction City (Yokohama, Japan 1994). He continued to advance partnerships in large buildings by adapting his architectural language to projects such as Saitama Prefectural University (Koshigaya, Japan 1999) and the Tianjin Library (Tianjin, Republic of China 2012), demonstrating his mastery of scale.

His work became more prolific, from private residences to public housing, from elementary schools to university buildings, from institutions to civic spaces, when a natural disaster devastated Japan in 2011. After the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, he founded Local Area Republic Labo, an institute dedicated to community activities through architectural design; and established the Local Republic Award in 2018 to honor young architects who act with courage and ideals towards the future.

Yamamoto is a newly appointed visiting professor at Kanagawa University (Yokohama, Japan). He was a visiting professor at the Tokyo University of the Arts (Tokyo, Japan 2022-2024) and previously taught at the Nihon University Graduate School of Engineering (Tokyo, Japan 2011-2013); Yokohama National University, Graduate School of Architecture (Yokohama, Japan 2007-2011); Kogakuin University, Department of Architecture (Tokyo, Japan 2002-2007); and served as president of Nagoya Zokei University of Art and Design (Nagoya, Japan 2018-2022).